Twelve days. Three races. Three different race tracks. One state. 411 laps of racing. It’s the busiest stretch of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season and it kicks off Saturday night at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT) with the Mr. Rooter 161. It could seem daunting to some people, but not to the crew chief who just won the championship with Doug Coby last season.
“I think it’s awesome,” Phil Moran told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’d want to race every other day if I could. It just keeps everybody sharp. But yeah it can be a little hectic and tough.”
Moran is a racer. That’s why he loves this type of scheduling. But it’s hard to deny that this part of the schedule can be tough on teams for a variety of reasons.
Part of that stems from the fact that each track is so different. The stretch comes to an end at the fast, high-banked .625-mile oval of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) on June 10. The middle race is at the legendary Stafford Motor Speedway (CT), a flat, one-grooved half-mile. Meanwhile, the leadoff race is at the Speedbowl, a tight 1/3-mile oval that’s defined as a bullring.
“They call it a bullring but it doesn’t really race like a bullring,” Moran said. “It is a little worrisome because the corners are a little bit tight and starting 28 cars on a 1/3-mile race track is always a little bit nerve-wracking.”
The race at Thompson falls on a Wednesday night, and that is something that has Moran just a little bit concerned. He works for the Michael Smeriglio III Racing Team full-time, but that isn’t the case for all of his crew members. But even though that could pose an issue, Moran isn’t too worried about it.
“That mid-week race at Thompson could be tough because people have to work,” said Moran. “But Doug basically works for himself and I work full-time for the team so it makes it pretty easy that way. The biggest part is just the guys being able to make that Wednesday night at Thompson.”
Some of the difficulties that could have arisen have been alleviated by NASCAR, as Moran explained. The quick-change rear-end gear has made it easy for Moran and others to quickly change their gearing for different tracks. That allows Moran to just focus on routine maintenance, unless something goes wrong at one of the races, of course.
“That’s about a ten minute job changing the gears,” he explained. “Then it’s just normal maintenance like changing the oil, and unfortunately fixing stuff that gets dinged up or wrecked. But if we have a normal, good race at Stafford then it won’t be a big deal.”
The ironic part about this busy stretch of the season is that it follows the longest period of inactivity the teams will see all year. The race at the Speedbowl falls 34 days after the Tour’s last race, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Moran and Coby kept busy by doing a lot of testing during that time to dial in their new LFR Chassis and NASCAR Spec motor.
“We tested at Waterford. We also tested at Stafford again because we felt that we weren’t as good as we should have been in the Sizzler,” he said. “The new LFR car with the Spec motor takes a different setup than we are used to with a Troyer. We’re still finding that setup that we need.”
When this stretch gets started, Moran expects strong runs at all three tracks. In fact, he expects them to be a contender for a win at all three races, if not win all three of them.
“In a perfect world, yes, we can,” Moran said with a laugh. “I think the odds are good. After leaving the Waterford test we felt really good and at the Stafford test I was really happy. And for Thompson we know we have a good car. So I think the possibility is good.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Debbie Horn Photo